This has come up again, and when people start yelling about others, it gets me a little angry. Think of this blog post as another one of those where I’m just complaining. It is only tangentially related to pinball, but it irks me so here we go.
I’m a big proponent of open source. Why? Because open source tools have enabled me to create a bunch of great things. Things that would not have been possible without open source. Let’s go over the tools that I use most days in my life: gcc, linux, python, eclipse, and millions of others. That list doesn’t include many subprojects like kicad, gimp, audacity, etc. That fails to mention open standards such as c, c++, IP, UDP which makes our world go around. I guess that I’m not just talking about open source, but transparency and open standards.
Everything that I have produced for the Open Pinball Project (OPP) is under the GPLv3 license. Why is that license important to me, and why not simply release the stuff as un-copyrighted? An un-copyrighted work can be used by everyone (That’s good). Here is the important distinction. If you base your project off a GPLv3 project, it also most be released into the public domain. This is referred to as copyleft. Anything that is derived from the original GPLv3 copyrighted material must also be available for others derive further works.
So anyone can take anything in the OPP repository and use it for their own purposes. The only stipulation that I really care about, is that if they do that, and make improvements, those improvements most also be available publicly so others can easily get the improvements and new works. That ends up helping to increase the quality of the software or hardware in the future.
So why did I release it with that particular license? OPP is months of hard work. Maybe even years. I have no idea how much time I have spent on it over the last 10 or 15 years. I want others to be able to leverage my work so that they can learn from it, extend it, and generally use anything that they find useful.
I take copyrights very seriously. Here is a strange fact that most people don’t know. If you use the OPP pinball framework, sound can be either place in the sounds folder, or the sounds/copyright subfolder. If it is in the copyright subfolder, it should not be saved to the repository and should simply exist on the physical machine. For the Van Halen pinball machine, there are many Van Halen/Hagar songs that are played in the background. That’s all copyrighted material, so I don’t have the rights to put that in the repository. If the framework can’t find the sound file, and it is supposed to be in the copyrighted folder, it plays a standard sound clip stating “that is copyrighted”.
At one point a few years back, people were complaining that others were using their work in ways that it wasn’t meant. I believe MPF (mission pinball framework) was originally branched from PROC work that Gerry, Mike, and some others did. I think this was in regards to MPF supporting multiple pieces of hardware. Don’t complain about that. Feel honored that your hard work is getting new life and others are benefiting from using it. That is the point of open source. It allows others to use your sweat and tears and make something better than what you ever imagined.
People aren’t “stealing” your work…they are extending it. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. If you don’t want others to use your work, don’t release it as open source software/hardware/whatever. Keep it closed and locked away, and I really do feel that your stuff will suffer when an open source solution comes along. The reason that so many people use the PROC platform is because it is relatively open, and it has a well defined interface. It has a skeleton framework that others can use to create their own projects.
So why did I get on this rant? Strangely it is because of Ben Heck. Ben Heck and Mike from HomePin are having a little tiff. The PinHeck system I believe was released under the Creative Commons – Share Alike (CC-SA) license. (That holds many of the same copyleft attributes as GPLv3). It seems that Mike, or people working for Mike, may have based some of his designs on the PinHeck system.
So a couple quick points. Under that license you must attribute the original design in some way. Yada, yada, this is based on such and such. Regardless of the license, that is the right thing to do. If that is what happened, just fess up Mike and say it. There is nothing illegal and lock stock and barrel copying that design and using it for your own purpose because it was released under CC-SA. Any fixes that he made to the design, he must publish them because it is a copyleft license.
So, I assume when Ben caught wind of this, he pulled the files from the server. I haven’t looked lately if they are there. The CC-SA license is irrevocable. You can’t simply say, sorry, I now don’t want it to be open to the public. Once open source, it is always open source. The legal ramifications would be impossible to reconcile since others by design could have based their works on your work.
Pulling things off the server is absurd. Once on the internet, it is always on the internet. There is a project called the internet archive that lets you go back in time and find things that people have posted on the internet and then removed. Even though Ben has removed the content, it is still out there. I have all the design/art files that Ben posted for America’s Most Haunted (AMH). They were put out there so others could extend his work and make mods and toppers. They could even build another AMH if they wanted to spend the time. They are still readily available on the internet archive.
So that gets me to the last point. Ben mentioned Charlie caught wind of someone trying to build another AMH. Maybe it was me, maybe it was somebody else. The truth is I actually considered it. Charlie, Ben, you can rest assured, that I have no desire to make an AMH from scratch. That being said, it would be a technically interesting project, but I don’t feel it is worth the time or effort.
I’m still hoping for somebody to create a completely open source pinball machine from scratch. Maybe in the next 10 years.
If anybody has more details on the origins of MPF, why Ben pulled the art files, etc, that is more correct, I will be happy to fix the above post or post corrections. Most of this is third or forth hand information that I’ve gleaned from the internet so it is not very reliable.